If Weezer had been on the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club, the band would certainly have united those perfect high school stereotypes faster than any Saturday detention could. There wasn’t a teen in that library who would have been afraid to admit an affinity for the band. Indeed, the beauty of Weezer’s appeal is that it’s broad enough for Emilio Estevez’s jock to understand, but not mainstream-cheesy enough for Judd Nelson’s heavy metal criminal to despise. It pulls the sensitive-guy schtick to reel in Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald, and of course, Weezer’s music speaks directly to nerds like Anthony Michael Hall.
The word “nerd” is referenced with caution here, for admittedly, an abundance of media attention has been given to Weezer’s nerd-rock image. But with good reason: Frankly, they are nerds, replete with both scrawny and chubby representatives of that faction, though a rock band with nerds is hardly revolutionary. Look at Devo.
What is truly remarkable is Weezer’s staying power. It is unprecedented in the MTV era that a band that debuted in 1994—a year that also saw the success of such fluff as Ace of Base and Hootie and the Blowfish—can still hold the attention of a fickle teenage audience. Although their self-titled “blue” album and its trio of hits (“Undone–The Sweater Song,” “Buddy Holly” and “Say it Ain’t So”) rocketed the band out of the garage and into the hearts of America’s shoe-gazers almost eight years ago, it seems the majority of Weezer’s teen audience today is hearing them for the first time.
The lukewarm critical reception of the band’s second album, Pinkerton (1996), a “creeper” record (one that is initially overlooked for its raw production, but whose charm sneaks up on you), sent the band on a path of hazy obscurity for nearly five years.
Indeed, prior to the release of 2001’s self-titled “green” album it seemed Weezer had become a relic of (excuse the nasty phrase) alternative rock. Fortunately, the band paired itself back up with producer and fuzz-pop originator Ric Ocasek of the Cars for their 2001 release and captured a new generation of dark-rimmed-spectacled, heavy-coat kids. Given the strange path of their career to date, anticipation is high and the future uncertain as a new record, Maladroit is set for release on May 14.
What is certain, though, is that Weezer’s brand of super-fuzzed pop transcends the work of other nerd rock groups. Weezer have done for nerds what Devo’s cynical esotericism and They Might Be Giants’ speech-club goofiness could never do: They have not only given nerds a place to retreat, they have given them arenas in which to rock.
With this in mind, it seems odd that Weezer are not exactly comfortably resigned to their nerd image—as Missoula will witness at the upcoming show, when the modified Van Halen logo (a W with wings) will be lowered behind the stage and T-shirts sold with designs that incorporate old Slayer and Iron Maiden lettering. For those who would dismiss these nods to the old guard of monster rock ‘n’ roll as mere ironic posing, consider Weezer totalitarian Rivers Cuomo’s past in a KISS cover band and the peculiar cock-rock flair that consumes him when discussing his “ability to shred” the guitar. Of course, no one could possibly mistake this for any degree of heavy metal street-cred, yet it seems to suggest that the band possesses a certain longing for a rock image beyond nerdy Weezer.
And truly, it is beyond them. But the rock world is different now, and being a rock star, for better or worse, no longer means being David Lee Roth. These days even Anthony Michael Hall could be a rock star, thanks to Weezer.